With changes in the voting process due to the coronavirus pandemic and one of the the most contentious presidential races to date, there was nothing typical about Election Day this year.
Many voters took to the polls early, mailed in their ballots or headed for their voting precinct with a mask on.
Prior Lake residents turned out to the polls in droves leading up to Election Day. As of Nov. 2 a total of 10,197 residents had voted absentee and over 600 voters visited city hall to vote in-person just that day, according to Prior Lake City Clerk Ann Orlofsky.
Scott County Auditor Cindy Geis confirmed Tuesday evening that Scott County’s unofficial results include all votes cast via absentee, early voting or Election Day voting before polls closed.
Absentee ballots received after Election Day are set aside and not currently included in results. The courts and the Secretary of State’s office will determine whether those ballots will be included in the complete official results.
In the early hours of Nov. 4, residents remained awake watching for results and not just to see if the winner of the presidential election would be announced.
With seats open on the Prior Lake-Savage School Board, City Council and for state representative of the district there was a lot to look out for on the polls. But for Scott County residents, signs of any election results didn’t start rolling in until well after midnight.
Nearing 1 a.m., 100% of the county precincts were reporting their tallies and unofficial election results revealed the following results for local races:
Incumbent Kirt Briggs, who ran uncontested, was re-elected as mayor of Prior Lake. He received a total of 13,170 votes.
Write-in votes made up the remaining 1.61% of votes from the eight precincts reported in Prior Lake.
Briggs first became mayor of Prior Lake on Jan. 9, 2017.
“I’m both humbled and honored,” Briggs said of his re-election. “This has been the best role that I’ve had the opportunity of serving in. Much has been accomplished with this council and I so look forward to what is in our future.”
In his next four years in office, Briggs said he plans to continue to focus on commercial growth opportunities to diversify the city’s property tax base and take part in legislation that protects private property taxpayers.
Voters cast their ballots to fill a total of three seats on the Prior Lake City Council.
Two four-year terms currently held by Councilmembers Zach Braid and Kevin Burkart were up for re-election and both the incumbents will once again return to their seats.
Burkart received 9,073 votes, or 40.85%, and Braid received 8,049, or 36.24% of all votes, according to unofficial election results.
Newcomer Kyle Frederiksen received 22.26% of votes.
Both Braid and Burkart were first elected to the council in 2016.
Burkart said he is honored to have been re-elected by his community.
“It’s affirmation that Mayor Briggs and Councilmember Braid and myself have been leading the council in a direction that our community wants,” Burkart said.
Braid said he was humbled by the community’s support throughout his campaign and the election.
“All of the candidates ran hard-fought campaigns and each one should be commended for their sacrifice and willingness to serve our great city,” he said. “Congratulations to Mayor Briggs, Councilmember Burkart and newly elected Councilmember Kim Churchill. I look forward to working with the upcoming council and serving the residents and businesses of Prior Lake for another four years,” Braid added.
The third seat open on the council was filled by a special election for a two-year term.
Kimberly Churchill won the seat after receiving 5,184, or 43.75%, of the nearly 12,000 votes cast for the special election. She holds a majority of votes over candidates Lee Hacklander, David Bryant and Dan Cronquist.
Churchill said she was pleasantly surprised to hear she was leading the polls early Wednesday morning.
“I’m really grateful to everybody that voted for me and I hope I work well for everyone in the city,” Churchill said. “I feel I speak for people in the city that are average citizens,” she added.
While three of the seven Prior Lake-Savage School Board candidates campaigned together, it was a different trio that lead the polls.
Incumbent Mary Frantz and newcomers Julie Bernick and Amy Crosby were elected to serve four-year terms.
Amy Crosby received the most votes with 11,551, or 20.75% of the votes.
She said she was grateful for the community’s overwhelming support.
“I’m excited to move forward in a collaborative and productive way, and will strive to be what our PLSAS community needs,” Crosby said.
Bernick received 10,709 votes, or roughly 19% of votes. She is looking forward to serving PLSAS and working with the other board members for the good of the students.
“We have a great Laker community filled with amazing people who believe in giving our children the best education possible,” Bernick said.
Frantz received 10,206 votes, approximately 18% of all votes.
Frantz was humbled and grateful that so many ballots were cast in her favor. She plans to continue to bring a sense of independence to the board.
“I ran on the fact that I have a mind of my own and I also have a lot of financial knowledge. I’ve been involved in education for many, many years and probably the only member of the board that has experience outside of Prior Lake-Savage with other school districts in both Minnesota and other states so I have a fairly balanced understanding of how school districts are run, so I can bring that perspective to the table,” Frantz said.
A board member’s main duty is to act as a conduit among the community and district so “community support is paramount,” she added.
Voters re-elected Barb Weckman Brekke and Tom Wolf to the Scott County Board of Commissioners after double-digit wins over their respective challengers, according to unofficial election results early Wednesday from the Minnesota Secretary of State.
Commissioner Dave Beer was also re-elected to District 4, which covers parts of Prior Lake and Shakopee, after running unopposed. Beer earned 13,651 votes in unofficial results.
Weckman Brekke returns to represent District 1 for a second term with a focus on “transformational change.”
“I’ve been honored and privileged to serve the last four years and I look forward to continuing to do so. Scott County is a great place, I’ve lived here all my life and care about it. I’m going to work with folks to make it a great place to live and continue to do business,” said Weckman Brekke, whose district includes Jordan, Belle Plain, parts of Shakopee and New Prague, and the townships of Belle Plaine, Blakeley, Helena, Jackson, Louisville, St. Lawrence and Sand Creek.
Tom Wolf, whose sat on the board since 2009, returns to represent District 2, which covers Elko New Market, parts of Prior Lake and the townships of Cedar Lake, Credit River, New Market and Spring Lake.
“We worked really hard, any victory is a nice victory,” Wolf said. “My opponent worked really hard. It’s a tough race, but I’ve been campaigning a long time.”
Wolf said his top priority is helping Scott County residents navigate the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve got to get our county back running 100%. That’s number one,” he said.
Wolf won with 9,852 votes, or 68.57% of the votes, to challenger Margaret “Marty” Pleasant’s 4,451 votes with all precincts reporting, in unofficial results. Pleasant, who owns and manages a Bloomington-based IT consulting firm, ran a campaign focused on lowering taxes and supporting small businesses.
“I want to thank my husband, all who voted for me and everyone who helped me with my campaign,” Pleasant said. “I did not run for myself, but to be a conservative voice and choice for the people and businesses of Scott County.”
Weckman Brekke won with 8,197 votes, or 57.02% of votes, to former county commissioner Joe Wagner’s 6,107 votes with all precincts reporting, in unofficial results.
Wagner previously represented District 1 for 18 years before losing to Weckman Brekke in 2016. Wagner relocated to Shakopee in 2018 and launched an unsuccessful bid for the District 3 seat to Commissioner Michael Beard.
Republican incumbent Tony Albright was re-elected to his seat as representative for District 55B, which includes the cities of Jordan, Prior Lake and Shakopee.
Albright received 17,118 votes, or 62.27% of the votes, over DFL candidate Andrea Nelsen, who received 10,359, or 37.68%. Fourteen write-in votes were cast.
“It reaffirms the support of the people in your district, but it also is a reminder of how important it is to represent everyone in your district,” he said.
When asked about the main issues he will face in his next term Albright said, “Our state faces a multibillion dollar budget deficit, that will not be easily rectified without some very hard decisions being made through the legislative process,” he said. “The state is still struggling with the economic shutdown brought on by COVID-19, with many struggling to pay their bills, and businesses wrestling with how to stay open. We’ve got to restart our economy, work to rebuild our business sector and get folks back to the jobs they love. We need to get kids back in school, [where] they learn best, and we need to protect the most vulnerable amongst us as we work our way towards a resolution to this pandemic.”
Upon hearing the results of the election, Nelsen was disappointed but found gratification in the work her team did to “hold the line against the red wave in the district,” she said. “It contributed to saving Angie Craig’s seat for the Democrats, so she’ll be able to continue her great work and we’re really proud of that.”
While campaigning, Nelsen said she gained the sense that voters were looking for active representation that was also less divisive.
“I think there’s a tremendous enthusiasm in this district for representation where all people will feel listened to and where people have the opportunity to communicate their concerns to a representative in a way that is not divisive like so much of what we see currently,” Nelsen said.
The evening of Tuesday, Nov. 3 became a long night for Scott County candidates and residents waiting to find out who would fill open positions for the coming term.
Most precincts in Scott County, including races for city, school board, county and congressional positions, did not release results until after midnight.
Scott County Auditor Cindy Geis said there are a couple of reasons the counting of votes took longer in 2020 than in years past.
Multiple ballot drop-off locations throughout the county allowed voters to remain spread out in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, both early voting and on Election Day.
“We got nailed yesterday with drop-offs,” Geis said Wednesday. “Like, nailed.”
Scott County elections officials got about 1,500 ballots that came in from these drop-off sites that needed to be processed and approved by the Ballot Board Tuesday afternoon. Geis said it was almost 7 p.m. Tuesday by the time these ballots were ready to begin being opened and recorded by county staff.
In some counties, there was a cut-off day for dropping off absentee ballots, and voters who did not do so before Election Day would need to instead vote in-person at the polls.
Scott County allowed absentee ballot drop-off through Election Day, which meant there was an “onslaught” coming in at the last minute, Geis said.
The county has two days post-election to process absentee ballots received by election day. Scott County officials chose to stay and process 100% of those ballots received in-house on Tuesday.
“Usually on election day we barely receive any absentee ballots beyond what comes in the mail, which is usually very light by Tuesday,” Geis said Wednesday. “We’re usually standing around just waiting to close our absentee polls after they are 100% counted. Not yesterday. Yesterday, we were still processing because of the drop-offs.”
In addition to the counting of more drop-off absentee ballots than usual, election staff across the county were seeing long lines, especially in “huge precincts” like Credit River, Geis said.
There were some other snags with in-person voting — social-distancing requirements made lines so long that in one instance, they trickled out into the street, making driving around the polling location hazardous.
Geis also said some voters used their own ink pens rather than felt-tip pens on voting scanners, which made it so that Scott County staff had to take time to wipe down the equipment.
Still, this year marked a record turnout for Scott County voters, Geis said.
Voter turnout in Scott County was 94%, well above the state average of 76%.
“This number is an anomaly and it is unheard of in our county,” said Geis.
Despite all of its moving parts, Geis said she is proud of how the cities helped administrate this year’s election, and she’s heard positive feedback from voters so far on the flexibility the multiple drop-off locations provided.
“I think our readers and our voters are getting out to vote and taking advantage of all the options that we had to be able to cast their ballot in whatever fashion they choose,” said Geis.
As of Wednesday morning, the Scott County had a little over 2,800 ballots outstanding. Geis said they’re assuming half of those people went to the polls in-person, so those ballots won’t be returned, but they always have in the hundreds that never return their ballots “for one reason or another.”
Absentee ballots that were postmarked on or before election day have a 7-day grace period to be received and counted. Geis says they received about 30 yesterday, and expect to see a few more trickling in. Those ballots that are received before next Tuesday will be counted and processed, and the Minnesota Secretary of State election results website will reflect those updates sometime next week.